What Is God Like? Forever Favor – Psalm 30:4-5

“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5, NIV).

A question I ask myself when I read a Bible verse or passage is: “What do these verses tell me about what God is like?” While no verses in the Bible contain a complete description of God,  many verses and statements in the Bible reveal character traits of God.

This jubilant psalm of praise reveals an interesting attribute of God’s personality:

God’s anger is momentary but His mercy is eternal!

What if it was the other way around–God’s anger is forever and His mercy is momentary? The reason I ask is because that’s often what we think. We think God is angry with the human race and the world He created and occasionally He gets over it and blesses us and then quickly reverts to His anger mode.

Continue reading

It’s Hard To Be Humble: Part 2 – Luke 18:9-14

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, NIV).

Jesus told a story that contrasted the prayer offered by a Pharisee with the prayer of a tax collector. In this story the Pharisee portrays a good and moral person–a religious person–and the tax collector portrays an immoral and sinful person.

While their behavior is similar–praying at the temple–their words and the attitudes expressed by their prayers are quite different. The Pharisee is absolutely certain of his righteousness while the tax collector is obviously doubtful of his.

Like many of Jesus’ parables the meaning is revealed as an unexpected truth, a contradiction of commonly-held beliefs; the interpretation is in the inverse! In God’s Kingdom (in contrast to the way things are in this present world) those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

The admonition of Jesus in this parable is an indictment of all us “religious” folks. In fact, this parable addresses what is possibly one of the most serious character flaws Christians must confront–self-righteousness. The self-righteousness of Christians may be more reprehensible to God than the unrighteousness of sinners because it’s probably more detrimental to the cause of Christ than the most abhorrent sin of a sinner.

God can have mercy on a sinner but His mercy is futile to the person who thinks he doesn’t need it.

When we Christians represent ourselves as “righteous” people, just what (or whose) righteousness are we talking about? Because if we mean our own righteousness then we are the same as the Pharisee in this parable–deluded and self-righteous!

As a Christian, the only “righteousness” I should exalt is God’s righteousness. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10, NIV). God’s righteousness invades my life by the presence of the Holy Spirit and hopefully, changes me so that I behave righteously.

Still, that doesn’t make me righteous. It means that God’s righteousness is at work in me by the power of His indwelling Spirit.

As children of God we can grow accustomed to walking in God’s righteousness. But, if we start taking it for granted, then we can start depending on our personal righteousness instead of exalting God’s righteousness that He has bestowed on us because of the sacrifice of Jesus. When we exalt our own righteousness by comparing our goodness to others sinfulness, we become self-righteous.

Even though we are the sons and daughters of righteousness our prayer should always be that of the tax collector in this parable: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4, NIV)

Wisdom’s Children – Luke 7:18-35

“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:33-35, ESV).

John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to Jesus to find out if He was the Messiah. When they asked if He was the Messiah, Jesus did not answer them explicitly. Rather, He sent them back to John with this message: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Luke 7:22-23, ESV).

But Jesus explicitly identified John as the one whom the prophet Malachi described as the messenger who would prepare the way when the day of the Lord comes. Although this explanation of John’s ministry satisfied many of the people in the crowd of people following Jesus who were also John’s disciples, the Pharisees and scribes rejected His testimony about John because they didn’t believe John the Baptist was sent by God.

Then Jesus points out that God’s purpose is accomplished in multiple ways: John’s abstemious method and Jesus’ intemperate style.

Jesus and John didn’t try to justify their own behavior. They didn’t behave a certain way because it’s the “right” way.

Continue reading

Jesus Is Just Alright With Me – Philippians 3:8-12

“But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found in him. In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own…but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead… I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. “ (Philippians 3:8-12, CEB).

When I was in college the rock band, The Doobie Brothers, recorded and released the song, “Jesus Is Just Alright With Me.” Although the song was originally written as a gospel song, The Doobie Brothers’ recording was meant for listeners of pop and rock music. The song became quite popular, however, among counterculture Christians, particularly those involved with the Jesus Movement of the 1970s. The song continues to be a staple of playlists on classic rock radio stations.

I’m sure as a member of the Jesus Movement in the 1970s I sang the song many times at student prayer meetings on my college campus. I still like the song today.

Recently, I heard the song on one of those classic rock radio stations and began to reflect on the perspective posed by the song: “Jesus is just all right with me!” And, it occurred to me that the sentiment expressed in the song that I loved so much as a young Jesus freak actually confirms what can go wrong with my faith as a mature Christian.

I like being comfortable with Jesus. He’s cool with me! So, it’s an easy and convenient place for my faith to reside when it’s a relationship that is clean, friendly and socially acceptable.

Certainly, Jesus is just all right with me isn’t exactly the expression of faith in Christ that the Apostle Paul describes in this declaration from his letter to the Philippians.

Continue reading

Empowered to Witness – Numbers 11:16-30

And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them…” (Numbers 11:17, ESV).

During their wilderness wanderings God told Moses to select seventy elders to help him judge and lead the people of Israel.  Moses gathered the elders and placed them around the circumference of the tabernacle. Then, God poured out His Spirit on them as they were gathered around the tabernacle and they prophesied.

Two of the elders were not present at the tabernacle when the Spirit was poured out. Yet, these two also received the Spirit and prophesied while they were still in the camp.

Continue reading

Stopping and Going with God – Numbers 9:15-23

“At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out” (Numbers 9:23, ESV).

After their escape from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites constructed a transportable tabernacle to worship God during their Sinai wilderness wanderings. God demonstrated His presence among them by covering the tabernacle with a cloud by day and the appearance of fire by night.

The cloud and appearance of fire indicated the presence of God’s Spirit with His chosen people.

Whenever the cloud lifted over the great tent, the Israelites would set out and continue on their journey and then encamp in the place where the cloud would settle. They might set up camp for for a few days, a month and even longer when the cloud settled over the tabernacle (Numbers 9:22). Undoubtedly, it was quite a feat to disassemble and reassemble the tabernacle when the cloud lifted (see Numbers 1:50–52; 3–4).

God leads His people by setting and revealing a path for each believer’s life. This verse  indicates that there are two important aspects to God’s guidance: stopping and going.  Stopping means remaining and waiting on God to lead and going means moving forward when He leads in a new direction.

Continue reading

Some Good Advice – Numbers 5:5-7

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged'” (Numbers 5:5-7, NIV).

Many of the laws God decreed concerned the offering of sacrifices in the tabernacle as atonement for sin. Embedded in these acts of sacrifice were some fundamental principles for maintaining good relationships with God and other people.

The principle for maintaining good relationships with God and other people expounded in this verse is one that I’ve used with my children on several occasions when their conduct towards other kids or adults was inappropriate. You probably have, too!

And, it’s certainly one us adults should follow as well.

Continue reading